Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Bunking into Maudetown

Here is a tantalising glimpse of hopper wagons about to enter the coal loading area at the NCB's Maudetown Colliery. Having just scooted over the iron railings, between the headstock tower and washery building, the fitters have just popped off for a cuppa after packing up their tools into the Morris pick-up truck. If we were to just stick our heads around the corner of the wall on the left-hand side, maybe we could see a Coal Board 0-6-0T shunting engine taking on water from the elevated tank that's just visible. Or maybe one of the diesels are working today instead. Either way, it might be an idea to scarper before the donkey-jacketed foreman turns up and turns red in the face...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Ballast Hoppers unearthed and a mention on BBC radio!

Built from a Genesis kit, this 'Herring' is slightly easier to build than the Catfish (see below), due mainly to the design of the hopper's side braces, which just need bending to shape. I used low temperature soldering for both these whitemetal kits, to speed up the job and for rugged construction.

After worrying that they’d disappeared into the great void of my attic/junk store, never to be seen again, I finally found the little box containing a trio of ballast hopper kits that I built for Model Rail magazine a few years ago. Consisting of two Genesis Kits whitemetal vehicles and a plastic Cambrian Models product, each one took a good while to refine and finish, so it’s a relief that they’ve turned up safe and well. Not least as I’ve been thinking about adding to their ranks having recently, especially as I've had a few ideas about upgrading the Hornby SHARK brake van that will be a perfect tailpiece for this short P’way rake...

...another project in the ‘to do’ pile!

I was chuffed to hear Shaun Keaveney give this Blog a 'shout out' on his breakfast show on BBC 6Music this morning. That was a pleasant surprise. Mrs D had sent in a text on the subject of cars with pet names, with a mention of the much lamented Milly Molly Micra, the 'multicoloured beauty' - as described on a post from July. Quite a bizarre feeling to hear your car's name and blog details being broadcast in between Noel Gallagher and The Waterboys. I almost spat out my corn flakes!

You can listen to the programme online for the next 7 days - click this link. It's at about 1h12mins or so...

We're big fans of Shaun. His unique northern Lancs humour is very appealing; very dry. He plays some cracking music too.

This Dogfish was built from the Cambrian kit, just before the Heljan RTR model appeared. I still have a handful of these kits un-built – something for a rainy day perhaps… All three wagons appeared in Model Rail issue 111 (Dec 2007).

The Genesis Catfish builds into a lovely model, although it needs a little extra work to get the best out of it. New buffers (MJT) and etched handwheels (Mainly Trains) are a real improvement. The angle iron hopper braces have been replaced with Evergreen plastic, as the original whitemetal castings are pretty awkward.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Hillsborough Petition needs our support

Apologies for the non-railway theme of this post but I feel moved to urge readers of my Blog to put their names to an e-petition on the Government's website. Started by This Is’s Brian Irvine, it has just reached over 100,000 names, only a week or so after being launched. While this is enough to oblige the Government to discuss acting upon it, I must stress that it doesn't force them to do anything about it. Therefore, getting as many names on the petition as possible will strengthen the case for the disclosure of secret files that document discussions held by the Thatcher Government in the aftermath of the disaster in 1989.

They may reveal a cover up by the authorities, or they may reveal nothing much at all, but the fact that they've been withheld for over 20years is a source of anguish for all those touched by the tragedy. There are still many families of the 96 fans who were killed who still don't know how or when their loved ones perished, as the coroner enforced a common time of death, when there is strong evidence that some of those were still alive up to an hour later.

There are so many unanswered questions from that day and subsequent inquiry and it's hoped that these documents will at least shed some light on events, or at least the prevailing attitude within the Government and the police force. The petition has the support of many important voices within the sport, media and the wider society. Perhaps most notably, Liverpool's manager Kenny Dalglish, who was in charge when the disaster took place, has lent his support to the campaign, saying “Please sign this petition. It is very important that we support this.”

Plenty of former (and present) Reds players and names from other clubs, have also lent their support.BBC’s Football Focus presenter Dan Walker wrote “Doesn’t matter whether you support LFC or not. The families of the 96 deserve to know the truth.” And fellow BBC presenter Gaby Logan added “Please find time – The families of the 96 deserve to know the truth.” Even the Government's independent Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, has ruled that these papers must be seen by the public, yet Mr Cameron is not very keen on the idea.

So, please just take a moment to put your name on the petition, by clicking HERE or going to:

All you have to do is fill in a very short form, then click on a link in an email that will be sent to you to verify your email address. Your details are kept secret and not disclosed to anyone.

Thank you.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

HAAs arrive at Maudetown

Maudetown Colliery finally received its first rakes of HAA merry-go-round hoppers, following a few modifications to the loading machinery. Having been built in the immediate post-Nationalisation era, Maudetown's washery and loading plant was designed with the humble 16t and 21t unfitted (or later Vac-braked) wagon in mind.

However, there are still a few operational problems to overcome, not least concerning the resident NCB motive power - both steam and diesel - that are not equipped with air brake equipment. Also, only the original-pattern HAA hoppers are permitted up the Maudetown branch due to clearances within the tunnel and under the loaders, so none of the HBA, HDA and HFA wagons with their top skips can be accommodated.

So, until these issues can be resolved, the humble little NCB shunters are having to move split rakes of HAAs up the branch to the colliery from the BR exchange sidings down the valley. For now, the NCB engineers have decreed that a maximum of four loaded wagons and six empties can be moved at any one time. Luckily, the HAAs are fitted with traditional hand brakes on opposing corners, so there is a degree of safety available by 'pinning the brakes' down before the descent of the valley. It's doubtful whether the BR chaps would be happy about their wagons moving with lumps of wood jammed between the brake handles to keep the 'shoes on', or maybe they're turning a blind eye.

Either way, I wonder if the inevitable outcome will be for BR to reach an agreement for its own locomotives to traverse the NCB's private line? If so, it would be nice to see a blue '37' - or even a pair of '20s' - chugging up the steeply graded Maudetown branch with a full rake of MGR hoppers.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The ‘Ultimate 37’ that YOU could own!

IN a follow up to a number of previous Blog postings, here’s a small selection of images left over from the ‘Ultimate Class 37’ feature that appears in the latest issue of Model Rail (MR160). With 30 illustrated step-by-step instructions, it’s probably the most comprehensive guide to upgrading the Bachmann 37 yet to appear in print and gives a flavour of what can be achieved by using a handful of Shawplan and PH Designs detailing parts and about 20hours of enjoyable work.

The Bachmann model, probably the best ready-to-run ‘37’ yet, is actually a limited edition run of BR blue 37003, produced on behalf of the Class 37 Locomotive Group. You can buy your own factory-spec limited edition model, or alternatively you can send a sealed bid to win this super-detailed and weathered loco, with all funds going towards the restoration of the real 37003.

It’s been a joy to work on this model and I hope whoever wins the auction enjoys running the model on their layout (or regarding it on a shelf!). It’s always a nice feeling when a restoration group can raise some much-needed funds from selling a bespoke model. Let’s hope the real 37003 is soon restored to full order so that she can be enjoyed by enthusiasts for years to come.

For full details of how to bid for the model or to order your own Bachmann model – or just to drool over loads of lovely images of real ‘37s’ - simply go to

The cab interiors were upgraded and weathered – an important step as the model is fitted with interior illumination.

With distressed and weathered bodywork, I’ve aimed to create a typical mid-1970s condition blue ‘37’, complete with radiator grille covers and steam heating equipment.

This Bachmann Railfreight ‘37’ was also in the workshop at the same time as 37003, but to receive some less intensive attention: snowploughs (from PH Designs) and new buffers (A1 Models) were the main additions.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

More N Progress

Having been awoken at an un-Godly hour by my slightly poorly dog, I thought I'd spend a few hours putting in a bit of work on my N gauge layout project, concentrating mostly on the small allotment site. The vegetation has received a few final flourishes and some suitable figures have been added. I’d originally ‘planted’ bushes around the perimeter, but with the surrounding land earmarked as grazing pasture, I thought a fence might be more secure against any eager herbivores.

The allotments are created using the various packs of castings from Timecast Models (see a review in Model Rail soon), which are available either pre-finished or unpainted. I’ve used a mix of both, although only the compost bins and cold frames have been left in their supplied painted finish. In order to blend in the four different sections (well, 3 and 3 quarters to be exact), I seated them into a bed of wet plaster, cleaning up the excess and filling the gaps at the same time.

The scarecrow and figures are from Langley Models and, once painted, look pretty good. The dog, by the way, is a 2mm scale version of our own Pepper, the white Collie, and the seated chap is meant to me, as that’s what I do on our real allotment – sit and reflect on what jobs need doing!

When dry, the whole lot was painted with a mix of Tamiya textured acrylic paints that give a highly realistic soil effect. When this too was dry, I painted the raised details to represent various plants and added tiny fragments of Woodland Scenics bushes and foliage to give a better representation of a successful allotment.

Adding blooms to the strawberry beds and fruit trees, plus the squash and courgette plants, using tiny blobs of acrylic paints, adds the finishing touch. It also sets the scene in mid to late summer, which is perfect for this idyllic slice of England around August 1961, somewhere in the West Country. In 2mm scale… I also picked up some useful N gauge stock from the MR office yesterday, including a lovely Farish GWR diesel railcar - just the thing for this tiny layout!

The plots are in a wonderful setting: beside a scenic West Country branchline halt and within spitting distance of a fine hostelry. Just the thing, after a hard day’s graft on the plot… a nice cool glass of Scrumpy!

The Timecast Models allotments provide a great basis for a highly realistic set of veg plots. They’re available in many different formats, including sheds, cold frames, compost bins and water butts.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Bufferstops Extra

The humble Peco plastic bufferstop kit is available in several styles and in many different scales. With a modest amount of work, they can look great.

With copies of MR160 now on general sale, may I present a few extra images to expand on this month's Bufferstop Supertest. Below is a Fleischmann N gauge 'stop block', that has been Anglicised from its original European style, by simply cutting away the moulded warning panel and repainting in Humbrol 'bufferbeam red', with the essential white stripe across the headstock.

As I mentioned on pg.76 of MR160, the Fleischmann stops in HO/OO and N are excellent and both can be modified easily to suit modern British layouts. With its shock-absorbing trolley behind, and sited just ahead of the end of the siding, the red structure now makes for an eye-ctaching and authentic feature on my contemporary N gauge diorama.

The Fleischmann N gauge modern buffer stop is ideal for 21st Century layouts. Available from

The DIY solution! A scrap sleeper chained across the rails was a common sight at railway backwaters in steam days.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

N Weekend

In between changing radiators, stripping wallpaper and replacing skirting board, I've managed to get a little bit of 'fun' modelling done on my mini N layout project. The farm has been populated with cattle and machinery and the pond now plays host to a small family of ducks.

The cows are from Langley Models and I've painted them up as a herd of South Devon cattle, in the distinctive orangey-brown shade. This sort of suits the loosely GWR-theme of the layout. However, I'd really wanted to paint them as a Limousin herd, which are amongst my favourite bovine breed (reader, I'm a cow spotter!). But, these animals, originally from central parts of France, were not introduced into Britain until the early 1970s, so out of my time period as far as this project goes. It's going to be a late 1950s/early 60s era scene.

The little pagoda style halt is in place and now only lacks a platform sign. I need to come up with a name, though. Currently I'm thinking of Bank Farm Halt or White Dog Halt... it needs to be short, to fit onto a sign about 12mm long, while still being legible.

The farm has gained a smart looking tractor and implement, also from Langley Models. I'm enjoying dabbling into N gauge - it makes a nice change and I find it a real challenge, not least to my eyesight!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Powering a Park Royal Railbus

Just been running-in my latest project for Model Rail - a Dapol Park Royal railbus kit, mounted on a fantastic ready-to-run 'BullAnt' chassis from the Hollywood Foundry. The high specification motor and chassis is fully assembled and ready for service, with just the mounting to the model's floor necessary, via a few minor, but specific, modifications.

The ancient Dapol kit (originally a 1960s Airfix kit) still creates a good model, being impressively accurate as far as dimensions and outline are concerned. However, the age of the moulds and the basic nature of the kit (it's basically an empty shell), means that yo need to put in a good bit of extra detailing work to achieve a realistic recreation of one of these charming little railbuses. Especially if it's to sit well alongside one of Heljan's forthcoming ready-to-run AC Cars and Waggon und Maschinenbau vehicles.

With the chassis fitted and some weight added to the bodyshell, the 'bus' has been cruising along on my rolling road for the past few hours to bed in the cardan shaft gears (although they barley needed this as the unit is exquisitely constructed. The main drive is delivered via a belt drive which offers superb performance and it's remarkably quiet.

Look out for a full demo on how to fit this power unit, plus a more detailed assessment of performance in Model Rail issue 161, out on 8 September...